Old Portsmouth

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Portsmouth Cathedral © Kenneth Yarham
Portsmouth Harbour © David Packman
HMS Victory © Peter Beaven

Old Portsmouth is often referred to as Spice Island, as it was the main gateway for the shipment of spices into Britain from the Caribbean. Discover the fascinating history of the town by following this history trail.

The trail starts at the Royal Garrison Church, founded in 1212 as a hospice it was used as a shelter for overseas pilgrims travelling to Canterbury, Chichester and Winchester. From the church you will explore the fortifications built to defend Portsmouth from attack, following the same path taken by Nelson in 1805 as he prepared to board HMS Victory to set sail for the Battle of Trafalgar.

The old fortifications include the Square Tower, residence of the Governor of Portsmouth in Tudor times and Round Tower, started by Edward III and completed by Henry VIII. For great views of the harbour, climb the steps to the top of the round tower. In view will be the Spinnaker Tower and HMS Warrior, with the masts of HMS Victory visible beyond.

Back at sea level follow the dockside round, pausing for refreshments at the Bridge Tavern. On the side wall of the pub is a large mural version of Thomas Rowlanson's cartoon entitled 'Portsmouth Point'.

Passing through a narrow gate you will enter Capstan Square; at this point a capstan could be used to raise a chain across the harbour entrance to prevent enemy ships from entering. Nearby you will find St Thomas Anglican Cathedral, first built in 1185 the original church was dedicated to Thomas Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury who was famously murdered in 1170.

Towards the end of the walk you will find The Dolphin, reputed to be the oldest public house in Portsmouth, built in approximately 1759.

To read and print the trail leaflet produced by the author, Welcome To Portsmouth, please click here. To print the trail summary and map produced by Walk and Cycle please click here.

Trail Location

Portsmouth can be reached via the A3(M), M27/A27 and M275 motorways.

Portsmouth Harbour train station is located directly next to Gunwharf Quays. The Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth and Southsea train station serves the City Centre and is located next to the Guildhall Square. Both stations have services to Southampton, Guildford, Chichester, London, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff, as well as easy connecting services to Bournemouth, Brighton and beyond.

The Hard Bus Interchange is 5 minutes walk away from Gunwharf Quays and the Historic Dockyard. National Express run direct to this interchange.

The Gosport Ferry and Wightlink FastCat terminals are 5 minutes walk away from Gunwharf Quays and the Historic Dockyard. The Wightlink Car Ferry is a few minutes drive away.

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